Dining with an infant – we’re allowed to eat out too

IMG_1357I don’t sugar-coat it, and even if I tried you’d see right through me. My son cries a lot. He is and has been a fussy, high-needs baby. But to his credit, he has always done remarkable well when we take him places. Grocery stores, restaurants, he’s done it all. We didn’t take him in the early months, but I’m proud to say in the last couple of months we’ve had over a handful of meals in restaurants and have taken him grocery shopping weekly. So far – without incident.

But something happened this weekend, and I’m surprised it took this long. We had somebody say, very loudly, that she did not want to sit next to our baby in a restaurant.

I worked in the restaurant business for over a decade, both front-of-house and waitstaff. I’ve watched children destroy tables, color on chairs and crush food into the carpets. I’ve watched babies scream at the top of their lungs, toddlers crawl/run around like they own the place and parents offer no apology and leave a measly tip (if any at all). I have plenty of reason to see kids in restaurants and think “Oh no here we go.”

And yet, I don’t. Because I don’t judge the masses by a few meltdowns. And I don’t pretend to understand people’s family dynamics. You can think whatever you like about the child throwing a fit in the middle of Chili’s, goodness knows I have, but you don’t have a right to be downright rude.

Basically: Your right to enjoy a meal out without it being ruined by a crying child is no greater than my right to enjoy a meal out even though I happen to have a young child. So let’s try to compromise.

I promise:
– I will avoid taking my child to restaurants that don’t have a kids menu. (I can respect the ambiance those places offer, and wouldn’t intentionally ruin that for those paying to experience said ambiance.)
– To not sit in the restaurant if my child is screaming and crying. If this happens, I will take him and we will go outside/to the car/home.
– That even if my child is fussy, I’ll do my best to keep him under control.
– That I will teach my child dining out is a privilege, and one that comes with good behavior
– If any of these things become unmanageable, we will leave.

If you:
– Understand that my child is 6 months old, and he’s allowed to be fussy. Sometimes we don’t realize he’s going to be tired right when we get hungry. Sometimes we forget to bring back-up pacifiers in case he drops his on the floor. Sometimes he’s been wonderful all day but the moment we place our order he decides he’s Had. Enough. and wants to get down. Be patient, he’s just a baby and we’re new parents.
– Realize that I’ve spent the majority of the last six months – save for my time at work – cooped up in the house, and mostly eating cold meals or takeout. I don’t get to cook with my husband anymore, because at least one person has to be tending to the baby. I don’t complain about this, but I miss eating at restaurants and bonding with my husband.
– Do not judge my child by other children you have dined with. During this particular occurrence, B wasn’t even fussing. He had been previously, but I got him calmed down (yay for discreet nursing tops!). Even so, we were in the process of getting our check so we could leave. Other than that he was a perfect angel, cooing, smiling and playing with the straws. Please don’t judge him, he kept it together longer than anyone expected.
– At the very least, manage to keep your rudeness to yourself. We were seated close to the door and the hostess booth. We could hear very clearly your request not to sit next to us, even if you weren’t looking in our direction. Be more discreet next time.

I understand that not everyone has kids. I understand that not everyone likes kids. That’s their prerogative. In fact, I greatly prefer it when people who don’t particularly tolerate/want kids don’t have them. But just because you don’t, and you’re enjoying your child-free existence, doesn’t mean my family has to be sequestered until my son has his driver’s license, or can eat properly with a knife and fork.

And to the incredibly rude woman who looked past me and my child to say “Not near a baby. I don’t sit near babies.” I get the last laugh. Because as you made the young, startled and confused hostess walk you and your friends “far away” from my baby, she was forced to seat you on the other side of this small restaurant.

Where there was yet another baby.

Who cried the whole time.

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